Texas Children's Physicians Awarded NIH Pilot Grant for Human Microbiome Study; First of Its Kind in Texas Medical Center

HOUSTON - (June 30, 2009) - Texas Children's Hospital announced that James Versalovic, MD, PhD, has been awarded one of 15 National Institutes of Health (NIH) pilot clinical demonstration project grants, for the study of the human microbiome in children with a form of recurrent abdominal pain known as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The grant is the first ever awarded in the Texas Medical Center for work connecting the human microbiome with health and disease.

Versalovic is chief of Pathology at Texas Children's Hospital, and director of the newly created Texas Children's Microbiome Center. He is also professor of Pathology, Pediatrics, Molecular and Human Genetics, and Molecular Virology and Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM). Versalovic will be the Principal Investigator of the study, in collaboration with Dr Robert Shulman, Texas Children's Hospital Foundation Chair in Pediatric Gastroenterology and professor of Pediatrics at BCM.

The project will examine the composition of the intestinal microbiome and any possible connections with irritable bowel syndrome in children. It was funded at $750,000 for the initial year, after which it will be reviewed for renewal. "This award is a cornerstone toward progress in this promising area of study, enabling us to gain an inside track on more translational microbiome-related projects in the future," said Versalovic.

The study is connected to the Human Microbiome Project at BCM, a NIH Roadmap program designed to sequence the individual bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses that inhabit the human body. BCM received a four-year, $3.7 million expansion grant from the NIH for this program, as one of a select group of large scale sequencing centers.

The Texas Children's Microbiome Center will explore how beneficial microbes can relieve and prevent disease, and improve children's health globally, with a primary focus on digestive disorders. Versalovic is a leader in the investigation of probiotics as natural modulators of the intestinal immune system and antagonists to bacterial and viral pathogens that cause gastroenteritis.

"We are optimistic that probiotics and beneficial microbes can lead to new therapeutic strategies; they may help stimulate antibodies to fight infection in the intestinal tract, prevent or treat diarrhea, shorten the duration of intestinal infections and reduce intestinal inflammation, and even possibly reduce the allergy burden in children," added Versalovic. " Research and clinical trials - made possible by grants like this - are crucial to helping us unlock the secrets of these powerful organisms."
 

About Texas Children’s Hospital

Texas Children’s Hospital, a not-for-profit health care organization, is committed to creating a healthier future for children and women throughout the global community by leading in patient care, education and research. Consistently ranked as the best children’s hospital in Texas, and among the top in the nation, Texas Children’s has garnered widespread recognition for its expertise and breakthroughs in pediatric and women’s health. The hospital includes the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute; the Feigin Center for pediatric research; Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, a comprehensive obstetrics/gynecology facility focusing on high-risk births; Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus, a community hospital in suburban West Houston; and Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands, a second community hospital planned to open in 2017. The organization also created the nation’s first HMO for children, has the largest pediatric primary care network in the country and a global health program that’s channeling care to children and women all over the world. Texas Children’s Hospital is affiliated with Baylor College of Medicine. For more information, go to www.texaschildrens.org. Get the latest news by visiting the online newsroom and Twitter at twitter.com/texaschildrens.